The UN Global Compact for Migration: Issues at Stake

Even though the United Nations (UN) have endeavored to protect refugees by filling the policy gaps with legal instruments, they have not yet established a common framework for the rights of migrants. For this reason, they are trying to create a new Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. However, some critical notes have arisen on the draft text. The final vote and adoption will take place on December 10-11, 2018 in Morocco.

The Compact refers specifically to migrants “and presents a cooperative framework addressing migration in all its dimensions.”As the UN describe, the non-legally binding Compact “is rooted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.” Their vision is that the migration challenges unite people rather than divide them; as the text reads, the Compact “sets out our common understanding, shared responsibilities and unity of purpose regarding migration, making it work for all.”Moreover, it calls for collective responsibility, as there is recognition that countries cannot face the challenges individually “due to the inherently transnational nature of the phenomenon.”

One of the main goals is to “mitigate the adverse drivers and structural factors that hinder people from building and maintaining sustainable livelihoods in their countries of origin, and so compel them to seek a future elsewhere.”

Response from Member States and Organisations

The Compact is meant to provide a common framework for cooperation on migration, as already exists for refugees. However, critical voices have raised questions over the effectiveness of a non-binding Compact, when already some countries like Hungary and the United States (who have also signed but have not implementedthe legally binding 1951 Convention on Refugees) have indicated that they object to signing the Compact. Furthermore, online magazine Muftah has stated that “some have pointed out that the Compact on Migration prioritizes the sovereignty of states rather than the human right to migration, to the potential detriment of those on the move.” Charlotte Phillips, Advisor/Advocate, Refugee and Migrants’ Rights team at the London-based Amnesty International, told the Inter Press Service (IPS) that the non-binding character of the Compact “effectively means that states can cherry pick which aspects of the Compact they want to implement. This reflects and entrenches the current status quo whereby wealthier states can pick and choose what, if any, measures they take to share responsibility, leaving major hosting nations in developing regions to shoulder the lion’s share of refugees”

The Hungarian Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó stated that “The adoption of the comprehensive Migration Compact currently under debate is the worst possible step that the UN can take for handling the challenge of migration.” He also spoke about the disruption of stability that the migration influx has brought in many countries leading to major political disputes, and said that “The international community must stop migration, not encourage it.” Moreover, the United States have said that the provisions included in the Compact are “inconsistent with U.S. immigration and refugee policies and the Trump administration’s immigration principles.”

Organizations have proposed some changes that could make the Compact more impactful in the protection of migrants. Amnesty International has recommended to the states “To uphold the principle of non-refoulement and refrain from implementing external migration policies which pose risk to human rights, to ensure that safe and regular pathways respect, promote and realise the human and labour rights of migrant workers, in line with international law, and deliver benefits to migrants, and to end child detention.” The Center for Migration Studies has proposed a list of things that could change; for instance, they have proposed that “an increase in legal avenues for migration should be adopted, an increase in development assistance to and job creation in developing countries should be quantified and provided, that Regularization programs should be implemented, and that National and local immigrant integration plans should be developed and measured.” Moreover, the Association of World Citizens, which is in consultative status with the UN, has stressed “the need for cooperative efforts carried out in good faith to meet the challenges of worldwide migration and continuing refugee flows. There is a need to look at both short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration patterns, especially at potential climate.”

According to resolution 72/244, when the vote will take place in December, every state participating in the Conference will have one vote. Decisions shall be taken by a two-thirds majority of the States present and voting, meaning “States casting an affirmative or negative vote.”